How to Write a Training Plan for Winter Running

For many runners, the time between autumn races finishing and training for spring races starting is a time to run when and how much you want. And that’s absolutely fine. But for others, having some structure during this period can help you keep on track and stay motivated. Knowing how to write a training plan will help you do what’s right for you, and get the balance right.

Here’s how to do it…

  • If you’re running a spring half or full marathon, your plan for this will usually start December-January. Work out how many weeks you have between now and your next training plan starting. If you don’t have any other races planned, 8-12 weeks is a good plan length.
  • Take a piece of paper, or your diary, or a spreadsheet (my personal favourite) and number the weeks until your next plan starts. Look at how many miles per week (volume) and how many runs per week (frequency)  you’re running right now. This will be the same as the mileage in week one of this plan.
  • Then look at how many miles and runs are in Week One of your January training plan. If you’re currently doing a similar amount of running per week as you’ll start your next training plan at, your goal is to maintain this over the winter. If you’ve taken a break since your last race and now need to build your mileage back up, do this gradually.
  • Work out how many miles you’ll need to add each week to reach the same as the start of your next training plan. Aim for around a 10% increase in mileage each week.
  • If you need to add in extra runs to your week, do this after a few weeks of consistent running, but spread your weekly mileage so that an extra run doesn’t mean a big jump in miles.
  • Now the fun bit! Add in any races you want to do! For me, the winter will be all about cross country races and parkrun. So these will give the main structure to my week. Depending on how long these races are and how hard you intend to run them, you may need to add a lower milage week before or after them.
  • Include a lower mileage week every four weeks to give yourself a few breaks. Also add in any dates when training might be difficult and things that might impact your training. Be realistic! Think: work Christmas party, travel over Christmas and New Year or a weekend away you might have planned.
  • Once you’ve got an overview of your weekly milage, you can divide it between your weekly runs and then start adding more detail. The main focus of winter base training is aerobic fitness. For the first four weeks, concentrate on easy miles and forget speed. You can then introduce a moderate speed workout or tempo run.

Whatever you final plan looks like, don’t feel you have to stick rigidly to it. Plans change and adapt. If you miss a few runs, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s ok to have a break if you need it. 

Use this time as an opportunity to mix up your training and try new things – that weekly yoga class you keep saying you’ll go to or getting serious about your strength training. Now is a great time to actually do it.

If you’ve got a race you’re aiming for, have a look at my training guides for everything from a faster 5k to a marathon.